While some might measure the success of college majors by earnings, I was struck by a different measurement option after reading this information about Penn State’s former president Graham Spanier:
Graham Spanier, one of the most prominent college presidents in America who today is the center of a firestorm, has combined button-down tradition with the sort of moxie that led him to run with the bulls in Spain.
A sociologist and family therapist by training, Mr. Spanier has used his pulpit as Penn State University president to weigh in on national issues from campus drinking and illegal music downloading to eroding public support of higher education.
Here is a little more about Spanier’s academic background according to Wikipedia:
Spanier graduated from Highland Park High School (Highland Park, Illinois), and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Iowa State University where he was honored with the Distinguished Achievement Citation by the ISU Alumni Association in 2004. He earned his Ph.D.. in sociology from Northwestern University where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. While a researcher, he contributed to the publication of ten books and over 100 scholarly journal articles. As a family sociologist, demographer, and marriage and family therapist, he was the founding editor of the Journal of Family Issues. Spanier was also an author of a study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior concerning the practice of mate swapping, or “swinging”.
Although I have seen a lot of coverage of this story in this past week, I haven’t heard anything about Spanier’s academic career. As a family sociologist and family therapist, should we expect that Spanier should be held to a higher standard in this matter?
More broadly, what can we expect in terms of moral successes and failures from different academic disciplines? Do certain disciplines contribute more to human flourishing? Do disciplines that deal more directly with human interaction, such as sociology or psychology, have more positive moral outcomes? Could the disciplines even agree on what would be positive and negative moral outcomes?